Saturday, June 30, 2012

Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Writing Career: Be Grateful

I often receive emails from young writers asking for advice and help in various aspects of their writing, and I am always delighted to help in any way I can. To be a writer is to be a part of a community, and I am so grateful for all the writers who have offered me advice and encouragement over the years. Being a mentor and cheerleader for other writers is the best way I can think of to "pay it forward" to those people who have bettered my life with their generosity and support.

However, I am not always the quickest to respond to emails, especially when life gets busy. Like this summer: I am in graduate school working on my thesis, taking a summer literature class, and teaching a creative writing class to college students. I feel like I'm barely managing to keep my head above water by trying to write a little of my own work every day, reading and working on papers for the literature class I'm taking, and grading papers and responding to emails from my students!

Most writers I hear from are beyond patient and gracious. But occasionally, I'll receive an email from a young writer that startles me with its rude tone and unprofessionalism. Often the email will include capital "shouting" letters, strings of exclamation points and/or question marks, and phrases like, "are you ever going to get back to me????" or "hellooooo???"

I consider myself to be an advocate for writers, and young writers in particular. I love teaching writing camps and working with mentees through Write On! For Literacy. Publishing Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing is a great source of pride and good feelings for me. So when I get an email from a young writer that perpetuates the negative stereotypes that society foists upon teenagers, it makes my skin crawl.

I believe the very first and most important lesson in regards to being a writer and getting published is this: respect, gratitude and professionalism are a must.

If you send an email with a rude subject line to a publisher, editor or agent, I can guarantee you it would be deleted without even being read. When you send your work to a publisher, it may take six or eight months for them to get back to you about it. That's just the way publishing is -- editors are very busy and they receive hundreds of emails every single day. And if you ever do email them to ask if they have had a chance to read your work, you need to make sure you have a tone of gratitude, graciousness, and respect of their time and busy schedule.

Here's a great article with tips and examples on writing professional emails:

But I think all you really need to remember is just to be respectful and to treat everyone with common decency. When you adopt a rude tone, you send the message that you feel entitled to the person's help, rather than that you are appreciative of any time and help they can give you.

I think it comes down to this, not just in writing but in all areas of life: people will be more eager to help you when you treat them well and are humble and appreciative of their time, knowledge, effort and support.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Piece published on Divine Caroline!

Just a quick post to let you know I have a piece published on the Ladies Home Journal blog "Divine Caroline" ... I'd love if you took a moment to check it out and, if you like it, click the "like" button at the bottom of the page to help it gain a bigger readership!

The piece is called "10 Simple Ways to Save Money on Date Night" -- read it here:

Hope you enjoy! :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Interview with Sarah Tate

Sarah Tate is an English born mother of three who lives and works in Switzerland. She is the author of Web of Lies - My Life with a Narcissist, an autobiographical novel about living with a person with a personality disorder. Web of Lies takes the reader on an emotional journey, as Sarah describes in great detail how she was wooed by, fell for, and almost had her life destroyed by, a pathological personality. Dr David Holmes, leading forensic psychologist at the University of Manchester in England, has endorsed the book as being a valuable tool for anybody who may have found themselves involved with a narcissist or psychopath. Her second book, Renaissance - A Journal of Discovery, charts the progress of Sarah and her children as they escape from the deceit, and carve a new life for themselves alone. It details the road to recovery from psychological abuse. 

Tell us about Web of Lies. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book? Was it difficult to revisit these memories? 

Web of Lies is an emotional rollercoaster which takes the reader on an incredible journey and gives a deep insight into what it’s like to be sucked into the world of a narcissistic psychopath, and moreover, how to escape.

Narcissists and sociopaths live amongst us, yet many people don’t even recognize their character traits and can be easily left distraught and confused thinking that they are the ones with the problem. By telling my story and sharing it with the world, I hoped to help other women (and men) who have fallen for the seemingly endless (yet superficial) charms of one of these individuals. This is not a self-help book, but an honest and emotional account of what it feels like to be entangled in the world of a person whose reality is different to our own. Leading psychologist Dr David Holmes recommends the book to his psychology students as an extremely valuable case study. Apart from being a gripping read, it’s an important book for all those who have suffered in an unhappy relationship.

I had been encouraged by friends and relatives to write down the extraordinary events which happened to myself and the children. I was doing some research on the web about the psychological effects may be for us, when I came across an article on NPD & APD. When I read the article I thought it had been written about my life! I realised then that I had a very important story to tell.

It was quite draining to re-live it all in such detail, and to be honest it was quite difficult to read it all back again when it was finished. The book is of course very condensed, you get six years put into twenty-four chapters, so of course it's more intense than it was in real life. I'm glad I wrote it though, as the feedback I've received has been overwhelming and made it all worthwhile.

What was it like to publish a memoir? Was it a release? Freeing? Was there any anxiety in the publication process? Is publishing a memoir different from publishing fiction? 

 It was scary. You are laying bare some very raw and emotional events in your life and you don't know how they are going to be received by the readers. There was much trepidation at fist, but it helped that I had a strong belief in the book and it's message. I'd say it has been quite liberating, yes. I know I've helped people, as I get regular Emails to thank me for sharing my story. This has made it liberating for me. It's exactly what I wanted to achieve. I've not yet published my first novel so I can't say if it's a different process.

How did you get started writing? 

Web of Lies was my first book, but I've always enjoyed writing and have written poetry and short stories for as long as I can remember.

What is your writing process like? 

Computer. I plan out each chapter and exactly what I want it to achieve. I do this in some detail. Then, I go back and 'fill in the gaps'!

How do you get ideas for what you write? 

Well, obviously the first two books are based on my own experience so that was easy! My third book is a novel called The Middle Aged Twist -- with this book I have used examples from real life as well as a lot of imagination. I'm really enjoying creating characters and watching them take on their own life in my mind.

What are some of your favorite books? 

Anything by Stephen King, Emma Donoghue (in particular, Room), Jodie Piccoult or Patricia Cornwell. I love psychological thrillers or historical fiction, but I'm also not adverse to some chick lit from time to time! 

What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams? 

Go for it and believe! Keep trying and never give up. Don't let negative energy from others dissuade you. Remove negative energy from your life and stay focused!

Contact Sarah:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Interview with Rebecca Guevara

What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction? 

When I first seriously started writing over ten years ago I did it only for myself to prove I could. Secretly I’d believed I could write since childhood, but I’d done little to make that happen. When my first book was published in 2006, and I experienced the heady excitement of signings, conference engagements, and best of all, compliments and encouragement on my writing, I wanted that to continue. Now I have learned more about the ebb and flow of writing, and I have returned to a quieter approach of genuinely enjoying the process while giving and gaining what I can. One way I keep myself connected is working with writers as they prepare their manuscripts. I have been able to help as mentor/coach and editor, and I find it very enjoyable.

Tell us about Blossoms of the Lower Branches. Was it difficult to revisit these memories? 

At times. Over twenty years had passed since my brother took his life, so the immediate sharpness had subsided, but as you know, true writing unearths more than writers sometimes want. I didn’t want to tell my story. I wanted to explain how the classic hero’s journey, first explained in myth, can be used to deal with grief from the death of a loved one, and I wanted to make it a “paper,” or a “study” that would explain like a teacher in front of a classroom. I thought that approach would give the subject more respect. I soon realized it needed a sincere, true story to weave through it to make it real and usable for others. After all, my readers are suffering grievers, not professors giving me a grade.

What was it like to publish a memoir? Was it a release? Freeing? Was there any anxiety in the publication process? Is publishing a memoir different from publishing fiction? 

Publishing a memoir has been different from fiction where it’s easy to hide behind, “It’s just a story!” whether that’s true or not. A surprise has been that I’m happy to talk about the idea I really do believe in with the hero’s journey as a grief recovery model, but I’ve been reluctant to encourage people I know to read it because it is personal. I was conflicted about putting my story out there, which is why I started trying to write a “paper.” I’d like to have anyone struggling with how to settle traumatic grief read it while keeping ear buds in my friends’ ears.

Was it a release? Not in the way many memoirs are because many memoirists are often writing to themselves for the first time. I had chewed over the issues in the book so often, for so long, that I had comfortably settled them, so it became closer to putting a period at the end of a last sentence, and closing the book before lending it to another.

How did you get started writing? 

First time: Fourth grade assignment when I wrote a two page love story and loved the process. That bout ended three years later with a puberty driven mania to write of a young girl who takes off to see the world. It started in Salt Lake City, where I lived, and traveled to San Francisco (Sounds like a bestseller, no?) where it abruptly stopped because I realized I knew nothing of China and I let it lock my creativity. Second time: When I wanted to expand my career and branch out to writing, I began interviewing and working for free lance articles. This bout ended when I was told of my brother’s death while I was having fun writing. I couldn’t settle how I’d been happy while he’d been so miserable. Third time: When I’d let so many years pass not doing something I thought I could be good at and I knew I had to try. Finally. Victory over myself in the third bout.

What is your writing process like? 

 I make notes in a small, carry around notebook, more notes in a spiral notebook, save clipped articles and related items of any kind in folders, and then I write on a computer. Next is revising for what can seem like forever. How do you get ideas for what you write? Ideas can seem to be in the air around me. Thoughts that sprout from nowhere, news stories, overheard conversations, a scene of people walking their dogs. Harnessing myself to develop them is often the harder task.
What are some of your favorite books? 

As my eyes fall on them in my writing room, and in no particular order, books I have enjoyed are:
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Science of Mind by Ernest Holmes
  • Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  • Down by the River by Charles Bowden
  • My Secret History by Paul Theroux
  • The Anthropology of Turquoise by Ellen Meloy
  • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
  • Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky
What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams? 

That’s a tough one because I think everyone is an individual who needs different things, and often things I can’t imagine. Through my life I have felt the forces of dreams, realities, and drives collide. Dreams can be irreplaceable inspirations, but dreamers then need to square that with the realities of what is required for the dream to be real, and then again look at how dreams and realities connect with personal drives. It is possible to dream of something, understand what it takes to get it and still have to deal with personal ambition or lack of it, inability to deal with fear, or a need for approval that kills dreams. Sometimes there is a lot to push through. Everyone needs to understand their own situation.

Visit Rebecca's website 

Writing Waters Blog 

Order her book on Amazon

Order her book through Barnes and Noble

Monday, June 4, 2012

Poem by Sidney Hirschman

I am thrilled to present to you today a new poem by Sidney Hirschman, a young author featured in the Write On! Books anthology Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing.  

Sidney Hirschman is 12 years old and is going into 7th grade this fall at the Nueva School in California. She enjoys writing, singing, playing guitar, and Minecraft. This is a poem she wrote for her poetry unit at school. You can read more of her work and thoughts at her blog, The Bird’s Word, at

I’ve Got a Horse 
by Sidney Hirschman

Of the beat
Of the trail so slow,
And a-cloppin’
Lis’tnin’ to the world grow.
And a-songin’
To the heartbeat of the earth,
And a-pond’rin’
Wondering what my life is worth.
And a-crackin’
From the bones in my back,
And a-warpin’
Is the sky so black.
And a-cloudin’
Is the attic of my mind,
I’ll ride
And keep on riding,
And I’ll see what I can find.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Great advice from Audie Cornish

Browsing through the June 2012 issue of Glamour magazine, I came across an article filled with advice for "how to master an entry-level job (or, well, any job) in a crazy-tough economy" by Lilit Marcus. All of the advice was useful:
  • "Don't just learn your job, learn what others do too" from news anchor Erin Burnett
  • "Realize that you have to earn people's respect" from Mandana Dayani, vice president of Rachel Zoe Inc.
  • "Find balance now, not later" from Sue Naegle, president of HBO Entertainment
I think the advice I found most useful came from Audie Cornish, cohost of the National Public Radio show All Things Considered. She said, "A lot of people I am in touch with now in my career are people I'd asked for help when I was in my first job as an assistant news-writer at a public radio station in Boston. It's easy to be intimidated by big voices, but when you're just starting out, you have the unique license to open any door in the company and ask, 'How do I get to do what you do?' People love being asked for advice. It shows you respect what they do." 

No matter where you are in your career, it's never too late to ask for advice. Why not pick up a pen or open an email window and write to someone in your field who you admire?

Whenever I finish a book I love, I always take a few minutes to Google their name, find their website, and zip them an email. I tell them what I loved about the book and also ask if they have any advice for me as I work to build my own writing career. Not only have I received wonderful words of wisdom and encouragement, I have even been able to forge friendships with writers from all around the world -- novelists, playwrights, memoirists, poets. These are people who I admire greatly, who enrich my life, who make me feel like I'm not alone when I spend my days pounding out words on the computer.

Now I've even started receiving the occasional email from young writers asking me for advice, and they make my day! I am always so delighted and excited to strike up conversations with new writer friends.